How to Become a Jailer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a jailer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Jailer Do?

Jailers work in correctional facilities. They supervise inmates and check over facilities to make sure they meet specifications. They keep order in the facility and complete routine searches of inmates. They must enforce the rules and discipline inmates by designating punishments, the severity of which depends on the gravity of the offense. Jailers must be able to restrain inmates and cuff them if necessary, and they must report any problems with an inmate. They also may have to escort inmates out of prison to attend court or to receive medical care.

For a quick overview of this job, look at the chart below.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree for federal prisons
Key Skills Substantial strength, interpersonal skills, consulting skills
Training Required Moderate training
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (for correctional officers and jailers)*
Median Salary (2015) $40,530 (for correctional officers and jailers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Jailer?

A jailer, more commonly known as a corrections officer, supervises and manages inmates at local, state and federal detention facilities. You could inspect cells and common areas, confiscate restricted materials, break up fights, prevent escape attempts, guard prisoners in transit and ensure that inmates obey the rules of a detention facility. Your other duties might include logging events, writing reports on inmate behavior, screening mail and visitors, coordinating visitation schedules and distributing clothing and goods to inmates.

Step 1: Earn a Certificate or Degree

College credit is an employment requirement of some law enforcement agencies, though formal education may be able to be substituted with military or law enforcement training. The U.S. Department of Labor's career database, O*Net, reported that about 11% of jailers have some college education (www.onetonline.org). Many 2-year community and vocational colleges offer certificate and associate degree programs in corrections. These programs provide you with a basic introduction to criminal justice concepts and correctional operations. Courses might cover emergency intervention, firearms training and counseling.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), if you're considering working at a federal facility, you'll need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of work experience (www.bls.gov). You could consider a Bachelor of Science program with a major in criminal justice, correctional studies or criminal justice administration.

Step 2: Complete a Training Program

To become a correctional officer, you'll need to complete all requirements of a county, state or federal training program. The American Correctional Association and the American Jail Association have established training guidelines for state and local correctional agencies and academies. These programs cover self-defense, firearms proficiency, institutional operations and security procedures. You're likely to receive several months of supervised on-the-job training during or after the program, though agencies have widely varying training intervals.

Step 3: Pursue a Job

Most of your potential employers will be local and municipal correctional institutions. Firms that provide facility support services at psychiatric hospitals or substance abuse clinics also offer a small number of positions. You can start by checking with your county or state Department of Corrections, which might post public job openings. The BLS reported that over 457,600 corrections officers and jailers were employed in 2014, with a projected increase of 4% from 2014-2024. In 2015, corrections officers earned a median salary of $40,530.

Step 4: Consider Certification

Some individual states offer certification, though you could obtain the Certified Corrections Officer (CCO) credential from the American Correctional Association (www.aca.org). Eligibility requirements for CCO certification include a high school diploma and at least one year of work experience. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice, true/false and reading comprehension questions covering offender management, sanitation, health and ethics. Some states could require that you take a state examination to qualify for work as a corrections officer.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

If the job duties of a correctional officer are your passion, you could advance to sergeant or supervisor positions with experience. With the physical, emotional and mental challenges of the occupation, you might find other jobs within the profession that could offer you career diversity. Obtaining additional education and training, you could seek other correctional industry positions in correctional counseling or correctional health. You could also consider transitioning into related positions, such as a parole or probation officer.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A police officer or a security guard are similar occupations that also require a high school diploma. A police officer is similar in that they must also enforce rules. They also keep others safe by patrolling areas and responding to emergency calls. They must collect evidence that may be used in court, explore suspects and fill out reports. A security guard also enforces laws and rules while patrolling and monitoring a property with the use of alarms and cameras. They must complete security checks and keep records of what happened while they were on duty.

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